Courtesy Bowdoin/Williams Sports Information
WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. – The Bowdoin College men’s ice hockey team won its first NESCAC Championship with a 5-2 victory at Williams in the conference title game Saturday afternoon. The Polar Bears (18-7-1) are victorious for the first time in five trips to the conference championship game and earn the league’s automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament. The complete bracket will be released on Monday morning.
Bowdoin scored twice in a 66-second span early in the first period and never trailed, getting outstanding play from first-year netminder Steve Messina, who posted a career-high 47 saves. Five different Polar Bears found the back of the net in the victory. Williams likely ends their year with a record of 16-8-3.
The game’s first score came when Bowdoin’s Bryan Rosata played a puck in front to Robert Toczylowski whose shot was stopped by Williams goalie Ryan Purdy, but cleaned up by Nick Wetzel at 5:15. The goal was Wetzel’s first of the year. Bowdoin doubled their lead at 6:21 when Jeff Fanning dug the puck off the boards behind Purdy and connected with Jordan Lalor also on the left wing. The Lalor shot bounced off Purdy’s pads and Daniel Weiniger deposited it into the twine for a 2-0 advantage.
At 14:04 the Ephs Matt Masucci fired a shot on Bowdoin’s Steve Messina that was stopped, but sent in again to the net by Mike Broft. Eric Rubino then skated in to collect Broft’s attempt and flipped it over Messina’s left shoulder giving the Ephs a power play tally. With 17:40 gone in the period the Polar Bears escaped a wild fray in front of the Bowdoin goal. Goalie Steve Messina was down after stretching to make a save and several Eph attempts were unsuccessful bouncing off Messina’s pads and body with the last Eph effort sailing over the net and off the boards for the Polar Bear defense to clear away. Messina stopped 19 shots in the opening frame to maintain the one-goal lead.
The Polar Bears increased their lead 4:31 into the second stanza when Jay Livermore hit Toczylowski behind the net and he fed Aaron O’Callahan who skated in from Purdy’s left across the front of the net to backhand one under the pads of Purdy to make it 3-1. Bowdoin cemented their lead with 4:30 left in the frame when first-year Ollie Koo positioned himself in front of the goal 30 feet out one-timed a pass from Rob MacGregor to give the visitors a 4-1 lead heading into the third.
The Ephs came out flying and got one of the goals back just 2:55 into the final period when John Wickman flipped home a rebound off an Eric Rubio shot from a tough angle to Messina’s left side. Bowdoin settled down shortly after, and Williams could not build on the brief rally. The Polar Bears sealed their first NESCAC crown at 17:55 when Jeff Fanning knocked home the rebound off a Daniel Weiniger shot to make it 5-2 Bowdoin.
The NCAA Tournament trip will be the second straight for the Polar Bears and fourth overall. The Division III bracket will be announced on NCAA.com on Monday morning at 9:00 a.m. The championship is the first for Bowdoin since the Polar Bears won the 1993 ECAC Championship.
Bowdoin had lost in its four previous trips to the NESCAC Championship game – all to Middlebury – including three times by a single goal.
“The fact that we’ve been in the finals five of the last seven years is a real credit to these kids,” according to head coach Terry Meagher.
“Today our total game was good all the way around, including special teams. Timing is key — we played as perfect a hockey game as we could play.”
2011 NESCAC MEN’S ICE HOCKEY CHAMPIONSHIP
Quarterfinals – Saturday, Feb. 26 at Higher Seeds
No. 8 Wesleyan 5, at No. 1 Hamilton 2
at No. 2 Williams 4, No. 7 Trinity 3
No. 6 Colby 2, at No. 3 Middlebury 1
No. 5 Bowdoin 4, at No. 4 Amherst 3 – OT
Championship – Sunday, March 6
No. 5 Bowdoin 5, at No. 2 Williams 2